Following college basketball these days is like a never-ending game of “Where’s Waldo?” – Except every player dressed up as Waldo.
With new transfer rules and name, image and likeness trades allowed, college athletes, especially basketball players, are jumping from one program to another at record speed, and it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all.
For fans of DC-area teams, this is the new reality. Local projects such as Brenda Frese’s Maryland Terrapins and Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas have seen large numbers of players leave, followed by an influx of transfers.
It doesn’t seem like the NIL deal is a major factor for local teams, but the explosion of endorsement money now available to players is certainly at play elsewhere, whether in college football or basketball.
Miami guard Isaiah Huang’s agent recently told ESPN that he would move if his NIL compensation didn’t increase, which was later turned down by Huang. Pittsburgh’s Jordan Addison, winner of the 2021 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best foreign player, is weighing his options in the transfer portal as the country’s top programs bid for his services — the This situation has led to tampering controversy and questions about whether the NIL has gone too far.
“It’s like the Wild West,” Archie Manning told Sports Illustrated. Manning’s grandson Arch is a five-star prospect with an estimated NIL value of $3.1 million, according to the On3 NIL valuation.
Proponents argue that the changes give players more power to find what works best for them. The one-time transfer rule, which took effect last April, allows athletes to transfer to another school at a time and play immediately, ending a previous policy that forced many athletes to miss a season after transferring.
On the other hand, the NIL rules give some shows huge powers — creating an unfair playing field under each state’s laws — while potentially hurting the fan experience.
But most agree that zero-sum lenient transfer rules are probably not going anywhere – forcing coaches, players and fans to adapt to the rapidly changing college sports landscape.
“We have to stop whining,” Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Bray told reporters at the ACC spring meeting. “This is the world we’re in and the last time I checked, we made a lot of money. So everyone should shut up and adjust.”
Arguably, no program is more impactful than the Maryland women’s basketball team’s transfer-related turnover.
Five players, including stars Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu, entered the portal two weeks after the Terrapins’ season ended. Rees made the AP All-American Third Team after averaging a double-double, while Owusu was the team’s second-leading scorer. Reese will join legendary LSU coach Kim Mulkey; Owusu is transferring to Virginia Tech.
But Freys was quick to reload, stacking the roster with seasoned transfers like Princeton guard and AP All-America Honorable Mentor Abby Meyers (17.9 ppg), Vanderbilt’s Cloth. Rena Alexander (15.2), Towson’s Allie Kubeck (14.6) and South Florida’s Eliza Pinzan (9.3).
“Every team is affected by transfer portals on both ends,” Freis said in April. “Maryland basketball is bigger than any lineup or person.”
For Ewing, the offseason has been equally busy — despite the dreaded 2021-22 season.
The De La Hoyas are ending one of their worst seasons in program history, including a 21-game losing streak by the end of the year. But that didn’t stop Ewing, who still has basketball prowess, from bringing in LSU’s Brandon Murray (10 points) as one of the nation’s top transfer players. Ewing also brought in Bradley Ezewiro (LSU), Akok Akok (UConn), Jay Heath (Arizona State), Primo Spears (Duquesne) and Wayne Bristol Jr. (Howard).
Given that a total of eight Georgetown players have entered the transfer portal during or after Hoyas’ 6-25 season, the added depth is significant. The most famous players to enter the portal are starters Donald Carey and Colin Holloway, although neither has found a new home.
The past few months have been relatively quiet for the Maryland men’s basketball team by comparison, as Frese’s Terrapins and Ewing’s Hoyas have both had roller coaster offseasons.
Coach Kevin Willard, who was hired in March, hasn’t lost too many players to the transfer portal – a positive sign for those new to the program. The only contributor to the portal last year on the team was big man Qudus Wahab.
Willard only got one transfer, but it was a big one. Former Charlotte guard Jameer Young, considered one of the Portal’s top players after averaging 19.6 points per game last season, committed to playing his senior season at College Park.
“I think everyone forgets that the kids have been shifting before,” Willard told the Baltimore Sun. “I think the only difference is that you brought three transfers with you knowing they’re going to replace three seniors. Now, you’re bringing your kids in and you can immediately play for the kids you just lost.”
Smaller projects in the region have also been affected by the movement.
George Washington, under new coach Chris Caputo, lost to Oklahoma State and Rhode Island’s Joe Bamisier (16.3 points) and Breejan Freeman (10.3 points), respectively. George Mason lost six players to the Portal — most notably Xavier Johnson (7.7), who landed in southern Illinois — but added Victor Bailey Jr. (Tennessee) and Sacquin Singer ton (New Mexico). Meanwhile, Howard joins Kobe Dixon (Cornell), Gerani Williams (Penn) and Marcus Dockery (Maryland).